The View from Bolton St

Praying for not a ‘Cruel, Cruel Summer’

Forgive the 80’s pop reference - but I am glad to be walking in to summer with you all and it is my prayer that it is indeed NOT a ‘Cruel, Cruel Summer.’ 

It has been a rewarding and inspiring year at Memorial. We have integrated new staff (welcome Justine! Hannah! Youngjin! Natalie! Jill!) and are saying goodbye to one (bye Youngjin!) as she heads off to complete her PhD in Boston.  

We have expanded our Children’s programs, reinvigorated our music ministry, and strengthened the ‘bones’ of the parish with new focus on the B+G, Finance and on the Vestry.  

It is time to take a breath, to step back and reflect on the year, and to gather and pray together over the summer.  One of the joys of summer worship for me is that we all come to Church with no agenda. There are not many events to plan or meetings to make or schedules to fill, just an opportunity to gather together - to sing, pray, and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I hope you will be so inclined to join us for that worship this summer as you are able. 

Of course we aren’t taking the summer ‘off’ — the vestry and staff are deep into planning already for next year and the Justice Committee is planning a series of book conversations over the summer  — but it is an opportunity for all of us to rest and perhaps to explore an aspect of faith and life that we don’t get a chance to do in the year. Read the Bible everyday?  Pray with a group? Take communion to the sick?  Sing?  Volunteer with our August Kids Camp? 

Summer is a great time to explore and try new things and I hope you will take advantage. And I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!  The Deacon is preaching so look out! 

All God's Children Camp

All God's Children Camp

The All God's Children Camp, held each summer at Claggett, brings together children, 8 -12, from diverse socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds in order to help all to enjoy and appreciate their differences The staff are parents, grandparents, young adults and older adults who are all especially trained to help children interact positively in the dorms, dining rooms and in all activities. The Staff to child ratio is 2 or 3 to 1. There is a swimming pool, fishing pond, hiking trails, arts and crafts center, a ropes course and much more on this 260 acre former farm!

 Children from parishes and neighborhoods in the city gather for a 6 day residential camp.Memorial Episcopal Church has provided "camper ships" for several children each year since 1997. Initially referrals were made by teachers at Eutaw Marshburn Elementary School#11 (McMechen St & Eutaw Place). Gradually families moved around, younger siblings became eligible, and our recruiting area widened to West Baltimore. 

 This year 5  or 6 children have asked for help to attend. The Claggett fee is $390 per child. 

All the camp staff are volunteer and pay for themselves. Any and all contributions to the camp are gratefully welcomed!! Make checks out to Memorial Church with All God's Children on the memo line.

The View from Bolton St

j&j Wedding and chairs.JPG

Chairs! (For now)

In January when I first floated the vision of Memorial becoming ‘A Model Church for the 21st Century’ we talked a lot about what that would look like. One way the vestry has been exploring his is to replace an institutional model of thinking (plan, plan, plan, plan, execute) with a ‘new process’ model of thinking: Brainstorm, implement, review, adapt, implement, repeat. Over the last two weeks we have seen one example of this before our eyes in the sanctuary - new, blue chairs. A comment I heard repeatedly over the weekend was - “I love these chairs, whose are they?” Whether for the wedding, reception on Saturday, or for the Holy Eucharist and Baptism on Sunday - over and over people asked me about those new blue chairs in the Sanctuary. And the answer is they belong to us! I am so glad you like them! But don’t worry! They are not permanent. Unless we decide they are.

A little bit of backstory:

In order for the Sanctuary to work for services and for an event space, we knew we needed chairs. We intended to borrow some chairs but the chairs we identified were not of good quality and were going to present a number of challenges. At the same time, the worship committee and the vestry wanted to explore what the sanctuary space would look like as a more flexible, open space. Summer is an ideal time to do this because our attendance is lower, the services are less formal, and the fall marks a good time to put things ‘back into order’ and start again. Of course, new church chairs are fantastically expensive. To replace our current stock of hardwood and cushioned chairs would be about $300 per chair. Close to $50,000 all told. However, after consulting with some other churches, including our former interim rector Kristin Krantz, we identified a significantly cheaper option (less than $6,000 total) that we can use for the summer and either keep or sell/repurpose in the fall. We had some generous contributions to help make this happen so it has not impacted our budget. Instead of making a big push for something we were unsure of, we did it in a smaller, more manageable way that would allow us to evaluate and adapt going forward. The pews and the old chairs are in storage in the lower parish hall for the summer. Following this experiment we will do some significant listening to the parish about how they feel about the changes, and then make a determination with the vestry about the vest way to proceed. I know that for some of you this is a significant change. Those pews are well worn, and hold important and significant memories for us. They have marked baptisms, weddings, funerals, productions, and the growing up of family. They may be a bulwark against the passage of time and a source of important comfort. Unfortunately, they also are falling apart and I have been advised that if we don’t do something, they may end up being decommissioned all on their own.

So What is Next?

The Worship Committee will be experimenting with the worship space over the summer. We know there are some significant repairs needed in the sanctuary, particularly the altar rail, the cork tile floor, and some of the stain glass. As your Rector, it is my hope that we might consider a significant renovation of the Sanctuary and Church Building, beginning sometime in 2020/2021. Our Buildings and Grounds Committee has shepherded significant renovations of the Rectory and the Parish Hall, but the Sanctuary continues to have quite a few needs outside and inside. It is my hope that seeing the space opened up without the pews, even for a short period of time, will give us some vision as to what the possibilities could be for the space moving forward and create some excitement around the future of our worship and our common life together. So please join us for worship this Summer! Test out the chairs. The sight-lines. The angles. The worship experience. And help to provide feedback as to what you are looking for in your Church experience. From the moment you enter, to when you take your seat, to how you receive communion, to the music that brings you in and that carries you home. If we are to be a model church for the 21st century - it will take all of our investment in the ongoing conversation.

The View From Bolton St

“What a fellowship, what a joy divine,

Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,

Leaning on the everlasting arms.”

This is a great week to be a priest. Or at least a great week to be your priest! On friday we rehearse for Jeffrey and Jennifer’s Wedding, on Saturday we celebrate the big day, on Sunday we baptize baby Eleanor Grace Leeds, and then we start preparing for the Boltonstock Festival on Saturday and the Bishop’s visitation on Pentecost and four confirmations that day. 

Lots of Fellowship, Joy, Blessing and Peace coming up. And a big part of why it is such a joy to be with you all at Memorial.  Because we are a community that cares for about Jesus and about each other. 

And it is not inconsequential that in the midst of that, we are taking time on June 5th as a community to get trained in the use of NARCAN - a life saving drug that can bring joy, blessing and peace to people in their worst moments.  It is one example of how we can be better neighbors to our wider neighborhood.  Because in the midst of these many celebrations over the next few weeks - we are also not unaware that there is a lot of sorrow surrounding us.  Especially as the weather gets warmer, schools close for the summer, and life gets a little bit harder for those on the margins in our city.  This escalation perhaps calls something out of us as neighbors — to seek to lessen those burdens, to build relationships, to create more joy and more blessing, more fellowship and more peace among all of our neighbors here in Baltimore. 

In the story of the Good Samaritan it was not the priest or the scholar or the relative that was the ‘good neighbor’ - it was the anonymous passerby who shared the love of Christ with the stranger.  So I hope you will join us for all of these celebrations, for all of these opportunities to share joy, love and hope with our neighbors, and to make more friends out of strangers.  

Baltimore Pride 2019

Join Memorial Church at the 2019 Baltimore LGBTQ PRIDE Parade on Saturday, June 15, 2019.  We will be marching in the Faith Communities of Baltimore With PRIDE Division, the largest division in the parade.  You can march in the parade, then volunteer to assist with the other events taking place during the day.  For further information, please contact Dave Hansen @ or 410-622-6570.

The View From Bolton St

Peter’s Guide to Difficult Conversations

The Book of Acts includes many ‘conversion’ stories. While we tend to focus on Paul’s dramatic conversion from chief persecutor of the early Church to its leading advocate around the world; Peter’s conversion on the inclusion of gentiles in the nascent Christian Community is equally important.  

In Peter’s ‘conversion’ we can find a good model for having conversations around difficult issues that we all can use - NOT to change people’s minds necessarily — but to open up the conversation so that voices can be heard and hearts can be opened. 

Peter’s model has four steps: Pray, Go, Support, and Reflect

Prayer: Peter’s first engagement with the Gentiles begins when he is in prayer and has a vision about eating unclean food. Because Peter’s friends new him to be a man of prayer they took this vision seriously.

Go: Peter (and God) knew that a conversation with the Gentiles would be difficult - but that it would me much better on their turf. If you know you have to have a hard conversation with someone, GO TO THEM.  You take the risk. It shows you care and creates a comfortable place for the other. 

Support: Peter brings six friends with him when he goes to Caesarea Phillipi. They serve two purposes: 1) to back him up and 2) to vouch for him with their friends back home. Often our big fear in these conversations is not the other, it’s what our friends will say about us! Bring friends you trust to support you.

Reflect: finally, at the end peter brings it back to Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of his story. Root these conversations in your personal faith story and life experience. Don’t leave it out there but make it part of your story, honor your history and your future. This also ensures that you don’t stray too far from what you believe or who you are. 

This fairly simple pattern that Peter offers is one we can use today. Whether the issue is immigration, crime, racism, abortion or what to have for dinner — this pattern I hope will help you engage in more challenging and more productive conversations going forward. 

The View From Bolton St

Things Are Bad: Now what?

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:35

For many of us, things in the wider world, around the country and even here in the city seem impossibly bad. Love seems to be in short supply.  Between the murder rate and the ongoing cyber-attack in Baltimore, to laws attacking a women’s right to choose and separating families at the border; to our escalating anti-immigrant policies and movements toward yet another war in the Middle East and in Asia, it is hard to see the good.  

And for a few of us here at Memorial, our individual, family and communal lives are equally troubled and challenging.  Unexplainable death, loss, illness and separation. 

SO what do we do? 

A good first step is to take a DEEP breath. 

It’s bad. It’s really bad. But you are still here. Let’s keep it that way. 

Now look around. Are your people still here? Good. Love them. And let them love you. 

Now let’s... carefully.... look out there.

What do you see? Jerks. Probably.

You might see them in Washington. Or In Alabama. You might see them in an angry family member. A crappy neighbor. You might see them in a terrifying new law or an unfair justice system. 

The world is filled with jerks. 

Okay now look up. (Or out. Or over. Or at a tree. Or wherever you see the Divine)

What do you see? God.

And God is so very good to us. 

Loving us unconditionally. For all time. Forever. And loving the jerks too. 

Now look back the other way. You have your family, friends and people in one place.  And jerks in the other direction; and if you have to pick two of these three — which are you picking? 

God and Family(blood, chosen, adopted, borrowed), right? Hold tight to that family and to that God. And trust that God will Shepherd us through the pain and grief and trauma and carry us through to the other side. 

I’m not saying forget about the jerks! They are terrifying. And they may pose a real danger to you and to people you love. Maybe not today but someday.  But don’t make them the focus of your energy either. Because that is what they want. And that is what the devil wants. To leave you depleted. Tired. Angry. Alone. And disengaged from the world. From your network. From your God. 

Don’t let the Devil win. 

It’s okay to lean back on God and on your people. Sometimes, we need a shepherd, after all. 

It is true that things may be bad right now, but your anger won’t fix that. 

But the collective love, care, compassion and support of your community, your God and the guidance of your Shepherd(s) — May just help you to find a new path and a new way forward. Because there is a lot of GOOD out there too.  In this community, in your community and all throughout God’s Kingdom.  And we have a Shepherd in Jesus who is so very good to us, that he will walk with us through that suffering and bring us safely home.

Samaritan Community Gala!

Please Join 
The Samaritan Community at Its
Movie Night Gala at The Charles

Please join Samaritan Community for an evening of food, fun, and film at its annual Movie Night Gala. Enjoy tasty food from Tapas Teatro, decadent desserts, our highly-anticipated
silent auction, and a marvelous movie of your choice at the historic Charles Theatre.
All proceeds benefit Samaritan Community and its human services programs.

Monday, May 20, 2019
Reception starts at 5:45 pm
Showtimes vary, starting at 7 pm

The Charles Theatre
1711 N. Charles Street

Baltimore, MD 21201

 $75 per Regular ticket 
   ($45 tax-deductible)

$100 per Patron ticket 
  ($70 tax-deductible)

For more information about Samaritan Community, visit
To purchase tickets, visit